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definition - Religion_in_Vietnam

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Religion in Vietnam

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The earliest established religions in Vietnam are Mahayana Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism (called the "triple religion" or tam giáo). Significant minorities of adherents to Roman Catholicism, Cao Dai, and Hoa Hao and smaller minorities of adherents to Protestantism, Islam, Hinduism, and Theravada Buddhism were established later, in recent centuries.

The majority of Vietnamese people classify themselves as non-religious, although they visit religious temples several times every year. Their everyday behaviours and attitudes are dictated by the synthesis of philosophies which can be traced from many religions, especially Mahayana Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism. Those religions have been co-existing in the country for centuries and mixed perfectly with the Vietnamese tradition of worshiping their ancestors and national heroes. That special mix explains why the people there find it hard to say exactly which religion they belong to.


Religious freedom

The Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam formally allows religious freedom.[1] In 2007, Viet Nam News reported that Viet Nam has six religions recognised by the State: (Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, Cao Dai, and Hoa Hao), but that the Baha’i Community of Viet Nam had been awarded a "certificate of operation" from the Government’s Committee for Religious Affairs.[2] In 2007, the Committee for Religious Affairs was reported to have granted operation registration certificates to three new religions and a religious sect in addition to six existing religions.[2] Every citizen is declared to be allowed to freely follow no, one, or more religions, practice religion without violating the law, be treated equally regardless of their religion, be protected from being violated in their religious freedom, but is prohibited to use religion to violate the law.[1]

In fact, there are some limitations in religious practice in Vietnam. Foreign missionaries legally are not allowed to proselytize or perform religious activities. No other religions than those 8 are allowed to propagate. Preachers and religious associations are prohibited to use religion to propagate ideologies that are against the government. Many Vietnamese preachers who fled for America and other countries say that they were suppressed by the Communist government for no or unreasonable reasons. However, legal preachers and religious associations working in Vietnam today are aided and honored by the government.

The Vietnamese government has been criticized for its religious violations mostly by the United States, the Vatican, and among overseas Vietnamese who oppose the Communist government. However, due to recent improvements in liberty of religion, the United States no longer considers Vietnam a Country of Particular Concern. The Vatican has also considered negotiations with Vietnam about freedom for Vietnamese Catholics.

Despite some substantial tries by the Vietnamese government to improve its international image and ease restrictions on religious freedom, the cases of dissident religious leaders persecution did not stop in the last years. The general secretary of the Mennonite Church in Vietnam and religious freedom advocate Nguyen Hong Quang was arrested in 2004, and his house razed to the ground [3]. Christian Montagnards and their house churches continue to suffer from state control and restrictions.[4] In March, 2007, a member of the main Hanoi congregation of the legally-recognized Evangelical Church of Vietnam (North) Nguyen Van Dai was arrested for accusations relating to his defense of religious freedom, including disseminating alleged "infractions" of religious liberty [5].


Trấn Quốc pagoda, Hà Nội capital.

Of Vietnam's many religions, Buddhism is the most popular, about 85% of Vietnamese identify with Buddhism (all sects) even though they do not practice on a regular basis[6][7][8][9][10][11][12].[13] but the census of Government showed that only over 10 million people (or over 10% of the total population) have taken refuge in the Three Jewels[14][15]. There are two types of Buddhism found in Vietnam, Mahayana Buddhism and Theravada. Mahayana Buddhism first spread from China to Vietnam's Red River Delta region around 300 BC and remains popularly followed throughout the whole country, whereas Theravada Buddhism arrived from India into the southern Mekong Delta region between 300-600 AD and remains commonly adhered to in only the south delta area of Vietnam. To this day, Mahayana Buddhism is largely affiliated with the majority ethnic Vietnamese.

Roman Catholicism

Roman Catholicism first entered Vietnam through catholic missionaries in 16th century and strengthened its influence when Vietnam was a French colony. The French encouraged the spread of the religion as they thought it balanced Buddhism and supported Western culture. Jesuit missionary Alexandre De Rhodes and other Vietnamese scholars created in 17th century a written system of Vietnamese language largely using the Roman alphabet - it is used today and now called Quốc Ngữ (national language).

Cao Dai and Hoa Hao

Cao Dai and Hoa Hao are minority religions in Vietnam that were both founded in the Mekong River Delta during the 19th century. Cao Dai is a type of reformed Buddhism with principles taken from Confucianism, Taoism, and Christianity that became popular in the rural regions of the southern delta area whereas Hoa Hao is related closer to tradition Buddhism and became popular in the southernmost areas of the delta.


Present estimates of the number of Protestants range from the official government figure of 500,000 to claims by churches of 1 million. The two officially recognized Protestant churches are the Southern Evangelical Church of Vietnam (SECV), recognized in 2001, and the smaller Evangelical Church of Vietnam North (ECVN), recognized since 1963. The SECV had affiliated churches in the southern provinces of the country. By some estimates, the growth of Protestant believers in Vietnam has been as much as 600 percent over the past ten years. Some of the new converts belong to unregistered evangelical house churches. Based on believers' estimates, two-thirds of Protestants were members of ethnic minorities (montagnards).



Adherence to Islam in Vietnam is primarily associated with the Cham ethnic minority, although there is also a Muslim population of mixed ethnic origins, also known as Cham, or Cham Muslims, in the southwest (Mekong Delta) of the country.


Much like Islam, adherence to Hinduism in Vietnam is associated with the Cham ethnic minority. Approximately 50,000 ethnic Cham in the south-central coastal area practice a devotional form of Hinduism. Another 4,000 Hindus (mostly Tamils) live in Ho Chi Minh City; some are ethnic Cham but most are Indian or of mixed Indian-Vietnamese descent.

Bahá'í Faith

Established in the 1950s, the Vietnamese Bahá'í community once claimed upwards of 200,000 followers, mainly concentrated in the South.[16] The number of followers dwindled as a result of the banning of the practice of the Bahá'í Faith after the Vietnam War. After years of negotiation, the Bahá'í Faith was registered nationally in 2007, once again receiving full recognition as a religious community.[16] In 2009 it was reported that the Bahá'í community has about 7,000 followers and 73 assemblies.[17]

Other religions

Cult of Mother Goddess Liễu Hạnh

In parts of rural North and Middle Vietnam an interesting cult, that of the Mother Goddess Liễu Hạnh is gaining significant ground. Followers express their strong hope for the deity’s protection for daily life, daily prosperity or in other word for the real life on earth, not for a far-sighted future or for the life after death.[18]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Constitution Chapter Five: Fundamental Rights and Duties of the Citizen". Embassy of the Socialist republic of Vietnam in the United States of America. http://www.vietnamembassy-usa.org/learn_about_vietnam/politics/constitution/chapter_five/. Retrieved 2007-09-27.  (See Article 70)
  2. ^ a b Nation’s Baha’i community gets religious recognition (22-03-2007), Viet Nam News, Vietnam News Agency Hanoi, Vietnam
  3. ^ "Vietnam: Attack on Mennonites Highlights Religious Persecution". Human Rights Watch. 2004-10-22. http://hrw.org/english/docs/2004/10/22/vietna9552.htm. Retrieved 2006-05-12. 
  4. ^ "Vietnam report". US State Department. 2006-09-22. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2006/71363.htm. Retrieved 2006-05-12. 
  5. ^ "Encourage the Wife of Imprisoned Vietnamese Lawyer". Persecution blog. 2007-04-25. http://www.persecutionblog.com/2007/04/encourage_the_w.html. Retrieved 2006-04-27. [unreliable source?]
  6. ^ US Department of State: Background Note: Vietnam
  7. ^ The Largest Buddhist Communities - adherents.com. This quotes a much lower figure than the 85% quoted by the US Department of State
  8. ^ APEC - Vietnam
  9. ^ Encyclopedia of the Nations - Vietnam
  10. ^ Vietnam travel and holidays - Vietnam's religions
  11. ^ Religion of the Vietnamese
  12. ^ "Vietnam: International Religious Freedom Report 2007". U.S. Department of State: Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. 2007-09-14. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2007/90159.htm. Retrieved 2008-01-21. 
  13. ^ CIA World Factbook - Vietnam
  14. ^ Embassy of Vietnam - Beliefs and religions
  15. ^ CIA Factbook- Vietnam
  16. ^ a b Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (2007-09-14). "International Religious Freedom Report - Vietnam". United States State Department. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2007/90159.htm. Retrieved 2008-02-23. 
  17. ^ "Baha’i Vietnam community to strengthen national unity". Thanh Nien (Thanh Nien Daily). 2009-05-04. http://www.thanhniennews.com/society/?catid=3&newsid=48481. Retrieved 2009-05-10. 
  18. ^ Nguyen Quoc Tan, Mother Goddess Liễu Hạnh under the View of Religious Studies, Journals Online, quoting Religious Studies Review Vol. 1, No. 2 – May 2007, http://www.vjol.info/index.php/RSREV/article/viewFile/1327/1238 .[copyright violation?]

Reference Books

Modernity and Re-Enchantment: Religion in Post-Revolutionary Vietnam, edited by Philip Taylor, ISEAS, Singapore, 2007. ISBN 978-981-230-438-4; Lexington Books, Maryland, 2008, ISBN 978-0-7391-2739-1. Note: This scholarly collection on a variety of religious practices in Vietnam (ancestor worship, mediumship, spirit worship, sacrifices, transnational Buddhism and Christianity) offers new perspectives from anthropology and history and serves as a useful scholarly counterweight to several of the sources cited in this online article.

External links


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